When My Son With Autism Had to Adjust to a New School After a Move
Change is hard.
Change is good.
This is my incessant mantra this week. These past few weeks have been beautiful and tough. Our family recently moved and unknowingly crossed that magical line dividing two counties, and everything has changed. Change is hard.
We have a different address. Different utilities. Different commute. No big deal, right? Moving is stressful, in and of itself, but this move was necessary. It’s a huge step up in the world for our family, and I am so thankful that we were able to make that step.
Different school system. That one took hold of us. Even for a typical child, changing schools is dramatic: new teachers, new friends, new routine. My son, however, has autism. The word “change,” in his world, can be like a big grizzly bear, snarling and slobbering and tearing apart the way we function.
His school is a part of what I call his “team” — the professionals, teachers, physicians and other people in our life who make his success possible. His previous teacher is a rock star who loves my son dearly and has become a good friend. His previous aides are caring and wonderful individuals. The progress he has made and the goals he has attained during the past two and a half years has been stunning. And he was supposed to be with this part of his team for one more year.
But that magical line between the counties changed everything. All of a sudden, we took on the dreaded status of “nonresident.” The process to stay in the previous school system was tedious and time consuming, which finally ended in a decision to deny his placement. And although I fought the battle all the way to the state, I was reminded that because my boy and I “do not live in the county any longer, the school division is not under any duty … to your child.”
I was devastated. His teacher and his aides also were. And for a moment, it seemed the world would crash, along with all the progress he was planning to make, again, this year. The prognosis for the new school system was uncertain at best, and I felt very uneasy.
Fast forward with me.
My boy started his first day at his new school on Monday morning. We had gone to meet his teacher and see his classroom on Friday evening, and while we were impressed, we were still anxious about the change. Would he feel comfortable here? Would he, if overwhelmed, begin to act out? To regress even? Would he be as loved and well cared for here as before?
When your child can’t verbally tell you about his challenges or even how his day went, your mind reels with questions in an unknown routine. His first day was a little rocky as was his second. But each afternoon, his teacher greeted me with a smile, a kind word and positive thoughts for the day.
Then it happened. I picked him up yesterday afternoon to find out that he had a “fabulous” day. His transitions were already improving, he worked well and he was becoming comfortable with his surroundings. I am so thankful to know that he is adjusting so well.
Change and transition are a natural part of life in this world, but they are not typically strong areas for my boy. To know that he is handling them with resilience and strength in this new chapter of our lives gives me a more positive outlook for his future, and someday, his independence. For others, these small steps may be minor, even expected. But for us, they are enormous in the joy, relief and hope they hold.
I still miss the team we leave behind, but I’m holding onto this new hope for what the future holds for my sweet boy. I write this in hopes of reaching out to those of you who may need this encouragement. Even if things aren’t going as you planned, there is hope. Our babies are more resilient and strong than we may imagine. And, like us, sometimes they have to step away from the familiar and out of their comfort zone to find that strength.
Change can be good.
Follow this journey on The Starlit Mama.
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